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Thursday, 11 June 2015 06:23

Speaker is the perfect job for Wanner

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Not too long ago, the southeast part Alberta was not-so affectionately known as the “forgotten corner.”

Despite the fact there was government representation, including a cabinet minister with environment’s Rob Renner, there were always complaints the southeast was overlooked.
Fast forward a few years later, and the voters in Cypress County, Forty Mile, and Medicine Hat have had enough of the Progressive Conservatives and vote in two Wildrose members — Drew Barnes in Cypress-Medicine Hat and (pre-floor crossing) Blake Pedersen in Medicine Hat.
Again, the coffee row critics and those who wrote letters to the editor or who made snide, peanut gallery, anonymous, cheap shots to the daily paper’s version of “beefs and bouquets” column complained the southeast was being ignored, probably because the southeast didn’t have any Conservative MLAs.
Now here we are in 2015, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, after being in power for nearly 45 consecutive years implode in one of the most stunning Canadian political collapses in recent memory. Through his diligence and hard work, the Wildrose’s Barnes gets re-elected and now as part of the NDP tidal wave which crashed down in Alberta, Bob Wanner not only gets elected for the Medicine Hat constituency, but he finds himself being endorsed by the NDPCaucus and Premier Rachel Notley to be the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Sure, the Wildrose have a technical beef that in the tradition of the house, the Speaker should be filling a non-partisan role and decided collectively, but really, this position is perfect for Wanner.
Right from the Alberta Legislative Assembly website: “In essence, the Speaker ensures that members have the necessary tools and resources to fulfill their roles as representatives of the people of Alberta.”
Wanner has seen and done a lot in his career. He was a public services commissioner for the City of Medicine Hat and up until recently was a full-time mediator for his business which deals in marriage counselling.
He was also involved in a lot of charitable organizations such as the United Way and president and one of the founders of Canadians Reaching Out To The World Children Foundation (CARO). He is also a graduate of the universities of Saskatchewan, McMaster and Calgary and is on the University of Calgary’s senate.
He was a popular choice to take over from Jason Soklofske as the Medicine Hat NDP candidate.  He is passionate in his beliefs and truly speaks from his heart. One may not necessarily agree with his party’s (perceived) policies, but he appears to be someone bound by integrity.
In an interview with this writer the day after it was announced by Notley that Wanner was the one who was being endorsed as the speaker, Wanner kept talking about bringing integrity back to the legislature, respecting the process and most  importantly, talking about co-operation amongst the MLAs, no matter what their political stripe. The old way of politics doesn’t work and he truly wanted a spirit of open dialogue, an exchange of ideas and fair scrutiny.
At the Medicine Hat College morning convocation ceremonies June 4, one can tell he has been trying to communicate with his opposition counterpart.
Wanner could be seen talking to Barnes on-stage prior to the ceremonies.
Wanner then earnestly congratulated and shook the Barnes’  hand after the Wildrose MLA made truly an impressive address to the college graduates.
Then the next day, Wanner complimented Barnes publicly for the Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA’s efforts for standing up for McCoy High School and ensuring funding for the expansion of the separate school board’s largest school within Medicine Hat was secure.
Sure, these are but small gestures and talk is cheap, but it at least showed on the surface that Wanner is making an effort to reach out and give credit where credit is due.
Wanner is a motivator and one who wants to do things the right way. He has been in enough of these political situations where he understands and respects process.
Whether the term “orange crush” makes one cringe and think the NDP is Alberta’s version of communism (which is laughable by the way), there is no denying Wanner is well thought of in the community and will be a major asset to all of southeast Alberta, just like Barnes has been from the opposition side.
While for some, it is disappointing Wanner didn’t get a cabinet post, it doesn’t mean the southeast corner will be the forgotten part of the province again.
With Barnes and Wanner, Medicine Hat and the southeast area will be be well represented. Add in Derek Fildebrandt, former president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and a motivated Wildrose juggernaut (also named critic of Finance and Treasury Board) as well veteran Wildrose Rick Strankman (critic of agriculture, forestry and rural development), and the southeast will be far from forgotten.
No cabinet post, no problem.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece by e-mailing him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor